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Monday, September 23, 2013

Is Writing Real Work Even If You Only Earn 22 Cents An Hour?



Now that I'm retired, I consider my writing to be my "work". Not many agree with me. They see it as a hobby or even an excuse to be lazy....or unsociable. And if work is based on remuneration, they are probably right. I get a small monthly check for my newspaper column and the occasional direct deposit from Smashwords and Amazon for sales of my books. I'm definitely not getting rich.

I've gotten more selective than I used to be. Over the years, I made some extra bucks writing campaign ads and college essays and resumes and newsletters for various people and organizations (although mostly, I did all that for free as a favor to a person or group). In my 60's, I've retired from writing anything that I think is boring.

So, now my mornings consist of "working". I get my coffee and my cigarettes and plop down in front of the computer. I quickly check the news to see what's gone on in the world since I last logged in. I make a brief tour through my NASCAR sites. I scroll quickly through Facebook, then I'm off to wherever it is my main character currently happens to be. Or I'm doing research for whatever he happens to be involved in - Jewish history or wild horses, or the Atchafalaya Basin or assassination. I usually don't stir from my chair except to go to the bathroom or warm my coffee. The hours fly by. Then it's noon and I fix lunch for me and Mom.

After we eat and I get the kitchen cleaned up, it's usually back to the computer until early evening when the news shows I watch start to come on.

Of course, during all this time friends call or stop by and I'm always cordial even though sometimes, if the words are flowing, I'm a little resentful. If they ask me to go somewhere and I say I can't because I'm trying to finish a chapter or a column or a blog, I know they think it is an excuse because, obviously, any of those relatively unimportant tasks could easily be put off. Occasionally, I imagine I see them looking at my cat-hair-y carpet with disapproval that I'm lounging in front of a computer screen instead of cleaning my house (this could stem from my own guilt). But no one would expect me to go to work late or come home early to run the vacuum if I was employed at a real job, would they?

This is the first time in my life, writing is able to be my  top priority. Always before, it played second fiddle, only to be taken up after I finished my "real job" of writing reports or waiting on customers or balancing accounts. I wrote books on the weekends. Wrote columns very early in the morning. Updated blogs late at night.

To me, writing now feels like my work and I'm the one who gets to make that call.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Toughen Up!







Some people believe my books are too graphic, too gritty, include too many cringe-worthy taboo subjects. My heroes tend to be amoral and twisted in certain ways. Well, that's all right. I write for myself and hope there is a niche for my style, but I have to no expectation that my books will be everyone's cup of tea.

I began writing as a political columnist. In that area too, I tended to be confrontational and controversial. I pulled no punches. My mail consisted of death threats, marriage proposals and suggestions that I run for President. People are passionate about politics. They don't mind taking you head on. I developed the hide of an elephant. Nothing anyone says can hurt my feelings.

Some respondents don't realize that. They let fly a zinger, obviously assuming it will crush me. It doesn't.

It seems to me, from reading the discussions on the various writing groups I belong to, that more writers need to develop a thicker skin. They are so easily hurt, so easily put off, so easily agreeable to someone who says they need to change their ending or shorten their book or lengthen it or add more description or less description. Some of them are so cowed by too much rejection that they lose their confidence and give up altogether.

The truth is that most of these advisers may know what's right for them but they don't necessarily know what's right for you. No doubt someone told Diana Gabaldon that the novels in her Outlander series were too ponderous and full of detail. Someone probably told E. L. James her Shades of Gray books revolved around a subject that would make most people squeamish. Sure thing -  those ladies are laughing all the way to the bank because they had the courage of their convictions.

That's not to say getting advice can't be helpful. There are definitely times when you will see the point your reviewer is making and use it to improve your writing. On the other hand, if the length or the ending or the style or the amount of description feels right to you, don't be afraid to ignore your critics and go with your own gut feeling. This is your work.